U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Blumenthal Visits Horst Engineering

On Monday, I had a voicemail message from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. CCAT is an East Hartford neighbor, and they were asked by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s campaign team for a reference to a manufacturer who was using renewable energy. It was nice of CCAT to think of Horst Engineering, because we are a 64-year-old manufacturer with plants in Connecticut and Guaymas, Sonora, who cares about our energy consumption, and offsets our use with the production of solar power. Attorney General Blumenthal is one of the leading candidates running for the United States Senate seat that is currently held by Christopher Dodd, who is retiring.

I connected with the Blumenthal campaign, but the visit wasn’t confirmed until late on Thursday afternoon. I was in Philadelphia, attending an aerospace industry conference. We made arrangements to host Attorney General Blumenthal and a couple of his staff members at our East Hartford operations, on Friday morning. Of course, I had to clean my office. Secretly, one of the motivating reasons to invite Attorney General Blumenthal to visit was that it would spur me to take action and clean up my mess. I’ve been promoting 5S (a kaizen tool used in lean enterprise) all over our plants, and intended to lead by example. I didn’t get everything labeled, but I started with the first “S,” sorting, so I’m on my way. I even discovered a half a dozen new business books (in a pile) that I discovered hadn’t been read yet.

I’m proud of the fact that I am an unaffiliated voter who focuses on the issues and not politics, but even prouder of the fact that at Horst Engineering, we have a group of positive advocates for small business and manufacturing. We provided Attorney General Blumenthal with tour of our facilities. He spent a solid 75 minutes, unencumbered by the media, walking through our plants and interacting with our employees. I had ample time to address some important issues on behalf of Horst Engineering and the entire small/mid-sized business community. Good timing allowed my friend and Horst Engineering supplier, Alan Grant of Digital Creations, to capture some excellent images from the visit.

I highlighted a full list of challenges that we face: lack of skilled manufacturing labor, weak industrial technology education system, enormous health insurance costs, high business costs, costly taxes, low-cost sourcing pressure, and high energy costs. I focused my discussion with the Attorney General on the precision machining/manufacturing industry, and our core high technology markets of aerospace (aircraft components and hardware) and medical devices (orthopaedics and surgical instruments).

I spent a fair amount of time explaining our challenging health insurance situation. We had a brutal 2010 renewal process with a double-digit increase. This has been a serious problem for years and we don’t see a solution. The recent health care reform bill will not lower our health insurance costs. On the contrary, we are bracing for an even bigger increase in 2011. Simply put, there needs to be a lot more reform in this area. I showed him our most recent monthly medical insurance bill. He noted that it was four times the cost of our current electricity bill…and we use a lot of electricity to run our equipment and our plants. I explained that we were early adopters of consumer driven health care plans, including high deductible insurance plan/health savings account/health reimbursement account options. Nothing we have done has stopped the increase in costs. Our next big focus will be in an area that I am passionate about: health and wellness. I’m well aware that culturally, that is a huge challenge (for the whole country) when it comes to changing eating behavior.

I take any chance I get to tell an influential politician about the challenges of small business. I haven’t studied Richard Blumenthal’s platform in detail, so I can’t really comment about it. It didn’t really matter because the election isn’t until November and my goal was to help educate the candidate, especially because he has a chance of winning the coveted Senate seat. The more he knows about the needs of small business, the better. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is no arguing that small business is the lifeblood of our economy in Connecticut, in New England, and throughout the United States. Policy decisions that hurt entrepreneurship are bad. Promoting responsible capitalism, free markets, and minimizing the role of government are essential to businesses, the engine of growth.

Manufacturing jobs are also vital to the economy. We are working hard to grow our enterprises in both Connecticut and Sonora. The Mexican government knows how important manufacturing is to their economy, and that is why the promote the heck out of it. High tech manufacturing jobs are near the top of the job chain in Mexico. People value the skills and income that can be earned through a manufacturing career. In the US, we have lost our way with our excessive focus on the service sector (retail, gaming, etc.). Turning away from manufacturing has resulted in the weakening of our economy because good paying jobs have been lost to other parts of the country and the world.

Solar photovoltaic power systems are not a silver bullet, but the technology should be part of a portfolio of solutions to wean ourselves off of dirtier energy technologies and our reliance on foreign oil/gas. When Horst Engineering renovated our 41 Cedar St., plant, we had to put on a new roof. The building was renovated with energy consumption and efficiency in mind. We took every step to retain the structure, minimize the use of new and harmful materials, and we made the energy systems as efficient as possible. We filled the building with modern capital equipment and machine tools that are far more efficient than the older stuff.

Our 39kW solar PV system went live in January 2009 and last year, we produced 60% of the power needs at that 7000 sq/ft plant with 128 rooftop panels. In 2010, we are ahead of projections and it was fortuitous that Richard Blumenthal’s visit came on a stellar solar day. Our internet based monitoring system shows that 250.5 kW hours of clean energy were produced on Friday. 2010 has seen more sunny days than last year and we have generated more than 260 kW hours/day several times this year. I won’t get into arguments about the capital costs of solar or how clean the panel manufacturing industry is. I won’t compare it with other technologies because the alternative is just paying the utility for more electricity.

We are proud of our investment and grateful that we were able to take advantage of both state and federal incentives. Solar’s growth is dependent on the wise use of incentives, like grants and tax credits, to stimulate investment. Connecticut has struggled to sustain its incentive programs and the solar energy will suffer as a result. The United States lags China and many European countries in our efforts to adopt more renewable energy technologies.

Horst Engineering will certainly jump at its next change to tell our story to a politician. Every day we strive to get better at what we do. Sharing our opportunities and challenges is good business.

1 Response to “U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Blumenthal Visits Horst Engineering”

  1. 1 Save the MDC Trails! « Life Adventures Trackback on 20 July 2010 at 9:36 pm

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Not a bad #sunset in #vermont ### #nembafest #kingdomtrails
Good first afternoon at #nembafest at @kingdomtrails in #vermont ### #mountainbiking @the_ccap #teamhorstsports @horsteng #teamhorstjuniorsquad #kingdomtrails
The first #Bolton Summer XC Series Race of the season. Plus, a vintage @mootscycles mountain bike with some trick parts! @shenipsitstriders #shenipsitstriders #trailrunning #crosscountry #boltonheritagefarm
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Livingston Family firefighters. 🔥 👩‍🚒 🚒 When @trailrunningmom “smoked” the obstacle course AND added some push-ups for good measure, the Chief pulled out his business card and made a pitch for her to join the squad. I thought I was the competitive one, but she can turn anything into a competition! The kids had a blast too at family day.
From race directing to @thecubscouts directing. Proud day for our son, @trailrunningmom and the rest of #cubscouts Pack 157 Den 5 as they earned their Arrow of Light. Four of her boys are moving to @boyscoutsofamerica #scoutsbsa after five years of fun and learning.
Little D and I ran the @shenipsitstriders #soapstonemountaintrailrace Jerry Stage Sampler 6K with a bunch of other crazies! Tackling the infamous Sandpit with its 40% gradient and slick conditions was great fun. #trailrunning #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports 🏃‍♀️⛰
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